Hall Memorial Library Director Mary Ahlgren is retiring soon, and the public is invited to a party in her honor on Sept. 14 from 2-5 p.m. at the library on Park Street in Northfield. (Donna Rhodes) (click for larger version)
September 05, 2012NORTHFIELD — On Sept. 14, Mary Ahlgren will literally close the book on her career as a librarian when she retires on the exact same day that, in 1998, she first came to Hall Memorial Library.
"It's kind of a circular pattern, finishing on the same day I started here. I like that," Ahlgren said.
Working as a librarian for 25 years, Ahlgren was named director of Hall Memorial 14 years ago, and has been a well known figure not just in the community, but in the state as well.
Serving many years on the Summer Reading Committee of Children's Librarians in New Hampshire, she was later named secretary, and eventually president of the group.
Not only did Ahlgren attend every New Hampshire Library Association conference over her career; she was often a speaker at the events, and became the Intellectual Freedom Chair for the NHLA. In that capacity, Ahlgren also participated in the first American Library Association Law for Librarians Conference in Chicago.
"Intellectual freedom is a passion of Mary's, and a strong part of her legacy," said her daughter-in-law and fellow librarian, Jessie Ahlgren.
Over the years, Ahlgren worked on the first Pay Equity Manual for librarians and their staff, was a founding and long time board member of the Children's Literacy Foundation, and spent nearly ten years on the Reference and Adult Services committee of NHLA. She has also been active with the Scrooge and Marley Committee, which enables local libraries to band together and purchase books they might not be able to afford on their own.
Ever humble, Ahlgren is quick to point out that Hall Memorial Library is not just about her and her role as director, though.
"I'm not any more important than anyone else in this library," she said.
Despite her state and national involvement as an advocate for libraries and literacy, Ahlgren said it is the memories of special times and events at Hall Memorial that she will cherish the most.
The construction of the addition to the library more than ten years ago is one that remains vivid in her mind. Ahlgren said she was able to work closely with the architects as they searched for a new location for the director's office. It was finally decided that her desk would go in the former entry to the library, adorned with large stained glass windows and other features that once welcomed people as they arrived.
"It's really one of the most beautiful offices in the state of New Hampshire," she said with a smile. "I told Jeanne Shaheen once, when she was here as governor, that my office was better than hers."
Another fond memory will be her role in helping the library get a new face-lift this spring, made possible by a generous donation from patron Dan Clark, who willed his nearby home to the library he often frequented. Proceeds from the sale of that house allowed the 126-year-old bricks to be cleaned along with other repairs to the exterior.
Lastly, Ahlgren cherishes the role Hall Memorial has played in the community, even reuniting old friends when the library received an old photo featuring dozens of local mill workers in 1948. Ahlgren wanted to identify the people shown in the print, and eventually held a tea for those who had worked at the mill in hopes of learning everyone's names.
"We had so much fun that day, getting everyone together again. The people who came helped us identify more than two-thirds of them so far," said Ahlgren. "It was so heart-warming. It's things like that make my job feel so special."
But, now Ahlgren has another job that warms her heart even more — the role of grandmother.
"Simon and Oliver, two sweet little one-year-olds, are clearly what made me decide to retire now," she said.
Ahlgren also conceded that the job of librarian is evolving in today's world of technology and she feels she would need to become a great "techie" to keep up with all the changes as they occur. Instead, she would prefer to spend time with her grandsons and let younger librarians take over with the technological aspects of libraries in the 21st Century.
She will, however, miss the people, opening boxes of all the new books when they arrive, the beautiful artwork and historic photos that hang at Hall Memorial, and all the fun activities like reading programs, knitting groups, speakers, and more.
To celebrate her many years of service to the towns of Tilton and Northfield, the public is invited to a party in Ahlgren's honor on Sept. 14 from 2-5 p.m. in the library.
"I'm just amazed by all of this," said Ahlgren. "I guess if you love your job it shows in your dealings with other people though. This library is such a great place."